July 06, 2015

"Let's gooooo States!" The new Hot Button Top 10 (updated): U.S. wins World Cup, D.Wade, Jose, Serena, Fins, Chile, Aldridge, cycling, Cats and dogs; plus Marlins All-Stars, 'Body' nude, LeBatard & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1aa1aflagme1) It is MONDAY, JULY 6. Hope y'all had a safe and fun Fourth of July and long holiday weekend. Happy 239th, America! Pictured is a photo I posted on Instagram of the flag in my yard as fireworks boomed over my neighborhood. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dwyane vs. Jose poll, Confederate fag result & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.

Random Evidence: The Sunday notes column: Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes column package.

"Let's gooooo States!" U.S. clubbed Japan 5-2 last night in Canada to convincingly win the Women's World Cup -- USA's third championship and first since 1999. Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and the Americans were favored and delivered, and of course as a ("U-S-A!") journalist I was a perfectly ("U-S-A!") neutral observer. "Let's gooooo States!"

1aa1agymnastESPN 'Body' issue: It's out in the magazine and online, ESPN's annual gratuitous platform allowing naturally narcissistic athletes to be even more narcissistic by showing us that their wonderful athleticism is a tribute to their even more wonderful bodies. Pictured right: Gymnast Aly Raisman, until my editors tell me to take the pic down, which I'm sure they wouldn't since it's, like, you know, all over ESPN.

Marlins All-Stars: All-Star Game starters based on fan voting were announced on ESPN last night, and as expected the Marlins' Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton made it, Gordon leading NL second basemen in voting and Stanton (though he's injured and won't play) finishing second among NL outfielders. The Marlins previously had only two players voted to start the ASG: Gary Sheffield (3B, 1993) and Hanley Ramirez (SS, 2008-10). Reserves will be announced tonight.

LeBatard cameo on 'Ballers': Dan LeBatard had a small speaking role on HBO's Miami-based Ballers series last night, seen wearing a 'Miami' cap, smoking a cigar and asking Dwyane Johnson what his end-game was. I loved his appearance, mostly because now so I can make fun of him on the radio Tuesday.

HOT BUTTON (UPDATED): TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. SOCCER: U.S. beats Japan, wins Women’s World Cup: Four years ago Japan beat the United States on penalty kicks in the championship match. Last night, the U.S. sought its revenge and resoundingly got it with a 5-2 rout in a WWC final rematch in Canada -- led by Carli Lloyd's three goals. This is where I’d drop in a quick Pearl Harbor reference, but that might be seen as politically incorrect so I'd better not.

1aa1ahotbutton2. HEAT: Wade re-signs with Miami, but for only one year: Huge week for Heat with Luol Deng staying, Goran Dragic signing long-term, Michael Beasley cut, Justise Winslow starring as Heat summer-league team opened play, plus that pointless pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. But of course the biggest new was Dwyane Wade re-upping. Call  it drama, delayed. Won’t the Heat and Wade be doing this same contract dance a year from now? That’s what a one-year deal gives you. No complaint, though. A starting lineup of Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Deng, Dragic and Wade can win. (Had better, anyway!)

3. MARLINS: Fernandez makes winning return after year’s absence: It had been more than a year — 419 days — since Jose Fernandez last pitched before his triumphant comeback Thursday. He improved to 13-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Marlins Park. Isn’t there some way to convince him that every time he pitches it’s a home game? Hypnosis, perhaps?

4. TENNIS: Serena survives scare as Wimbledon, faces sister next: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams seem championship-bound as Wimbledon begins its second week. Serena survived an upset bid by Heather Watson on Friday but must now face sister Venus today/Monday. Meanwhile this was the fourth Wimbledon in a row in which Rafael Nadal has been ousted early and ingloriously. Might be time to bring back the Capri pants.

5. DOLPHINS: Fins set training camp schedule: The Dolphins announced their historic 50th anniversary season would begin July 30 with the official start of preseason training camp, two weeks of practices segueing into the first exhibition game. Anniversaries less impressive than the 50th include this being the 42nd season since their last Super Bowl.

6. SOCCER: Chile upset winner in Copa America: Beating Argentina on penalty kicks to win Copa America marked Chile's biggest international title ever. Finally, a message to Brazil and Argentina that South America has other teams, too.

7. NBA: LaMarcus Aldridge to Spurs: San Antonio bags NBA's No. 1 actually-might-leave-his team free agent with power forward Aldridge leaving Portland. Heat's Pat Riley had flown to L.A. to meet with Aldridge, the Godfather's biggest wasted trip since that meeting with LeBron James a year ago.

8. CYCLING: Tour de France gets underway: Still going despite all of its various doping scandals, the latest Tour de Fraud France has begun. It must be so difficult for those cyclists to peddle up mountains while simultaneously providing urine samples.

9. PANTHERS: Cats stage four-day developmental camp: It was for recent draftees and other first-year players and included “team building” activities such as a beach outing and a Marlins game. Hmm. I’d rather my team win but not get along than lose and sing Kumbaya.

10. HOT DOGS: Annual gorging contest held on Coney Island: Answer: I would sooner watch vultures disemboweling maggot-covered carrion in a roadside ditch. Question: Did you watch Saturday’s annual hot dog-eating contest? Dear "competitive eating" fad: You were cute for a while. Go away, please.

Missing the HB10 cut: Golf, Doral standing behind Donald Trump, for now. Dan LeBatard cameo on HBO's Ballers tonight. Strikers lose to Boca Juniors. Brett Favre, 45, says he could still play. ESPN Body issue out today/Monday as our most narcissistic athletes celebrate themselves.

Poll result: Dwyane edges Jose for biggest story: Admittedly it was an apples-and-oranges question that (predictably) caused a smallish response, but we asked it anyway, and Dwyane Wade re-upping with the Heat was judged a bigger story than Jose Fernandez's comeback game by 59.2 percent to 40.8%.

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

June 29, 2015

Wade opts out as expected, Winslow will be Heat's biggest draft star since 2003.The new column; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 29. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Giancarlo Stanton injured, Heat-draft-Justise Winslow poll, Dwyane Wade poll, Panthers draft & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.

WADE OPTS OUT: Heat star Dwyane Wade will opt out of the final year of his Miami contract and become a free agent, ESPN reports this afternoon in this story. The move is fully expected and had been anticipated for weeks. It does not mean that Wade and the Heat won't continue as partners. It does mean that the sides must come to terms on a new contract of that is to happen, with negotiations set to begin on Wednesday.  

The new column: Setting the bar sky-high for Justise Winslow: Click on No Ceiling, No Doubts for my latest column, on Heat top draft pick Justise Winslow, online now and shipping to Tuesday's inky pulp editions. Elsewhere in Heatville, in addition to Wade opting out, Luol Deng announcing today he is opting-in and staying with Heat, perhaps a mild surprise because there were media reports suggesting otherwise. Also, team announcing it won't pick up option on Michael Beasley -- no surprise at all.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Monday) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Miami drafts Duke's Winslow, confronts Wade uncertainty: Heat hit big and fans were delighted Thursday night as team got Duke swingman Justise Winslow 10th overall in the NBA Draft. I won big, too, after investing, on a hunch, in lame media references such a "Justise Is Served" and "League of Justise." Now Heat fans turn from delighted to wringing-hands anxious as Dwyane Wade prepares to opt out and become a free agent by tonight's midnight deadline, his future in Miami uncertain as contract negotiations begin Wednesday.

2. MARLINS: Stanton injured, Fernandez's return to mound on deck: MLB home-run leader Giancarlo Stanton is sidelined with a broken bone in his wrist, likely for four to six weeks, adding injury to the insult of a disappointing season for Miami that has included nine losses in past 11 games. Now speculation swirls that Miami may be sellers, not buyers, before the trade deadline. I’d say there isn't much more reason to watch, except at least Jose Fernandez’s long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery is set for this Thursday, here, vs. the Giants.

3. PANTHERS: Cats host NHL Draft, target goal-scoring help: Big week for the Panthers. Florida hosted the NHL Draft in Sunrise and took 6-4 winger Lawson Crouse 11th overall after earlier celebrating Aaron Ekblad’s NHL rookie of the year honor. But stop reading here if you believe in bad omens: After Florida hosted the draft for the first time in 2001, it missed the playoffs the next nine seasons.

4. SOCCER: U.S. faces Germany in Women's World Cup semfinals: The Americans beat China 1-0 on Friday to advance to the semifinals against Germany on Tuesday in a meeting of WWC co-favorites. American soccer fans would be thrilled (and surprised) if the U.S. men got this far, but it’s championship-or-bust for the women’s team.

5. TENNIS: As Wimbledon begins, can anybody stop Serena Williams?: The fortnight at Wimbledon starts today/Monday (cue strawberries-and-cream references) with Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams the favorites, as usual. Serena goes for her fourth consecutive major. Injury might stop Serena. Sometimes disinterest has. Other women players? Not so much.  

6. DOLPHINS: Fins win offseason, now off until training camp: In late July, the preseason will start with Dolphins training camp. For now, thanks to signing Ndamukong Suh and extending Ryan Tannehill’s contract, I declare Miami to be NFL Offseason Champion! No rings for that. No parade. The reward is the heavier expectations you lug into August.

7. DEFLATEGATE: NFL hears Tom Brady's appeal of suspension: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Patriots quarterback for four games based on the result of an independent investigation paid for by Goodell's league. So who hears and will rule on Brady's appeal? Goodell! Hmm.

8. PETE ROSE: Latest revelation ends last Cooperstown hopes: Then again, is it really shocking that Pete Rose, who previously admitted to betting on his team as a manager, also is now determined to have bet on his team as a player, too? 

9. CONFEDERATE FLAG: When politics and social issues seep into sports: The growing move to abolish the Confederate flag in the wake of the South Carolina church shootings has seeped into sports, such as NASCAR chairman Brian France saying his sport will be "aggressive" in disassociating the symbol from its events. Aside to Confederate flag supporters: The Civil War was in the 1860s. Might be time to move on.

10. NUDE ATHLETES: Roster announced for ESPN mag's 'Body' issue: ESPN The Magazine announced the 24 sports figures who are to appear nude (though artfully covered) in its latest “Body” issue due out July 6, and they include Bryce Harper, Kevin Love and Dan LeBatard. OK, I made up that last one.

Missing the HB10 cut: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross teams with Qatari investors in bid to buy Formula One racing circuit. And Sean "Diddy" Combs arrested for allegedly swinging kettlebell during confrontation with a UCLA assistant coach who supposedly mistreated Combs’ son.

Poll result: Overwhelming thumbs-up for Heat drafting Justise Winslow: We asked your initial reaction to Miami selecting Duke's Justise Winslow 10th overall in the NBA Draft and 86.0 percent answered "very favorable" and another 8.7% "somewhat favorable. A negligible few answered either very (2.8%) or somewhat (2.5%) unfavorable. 

Poll result: Solid support for keeping Dwyane Wade: We asked you to describe how much you want the Heat to re-sign Dwyane Wade and more than 80 percent answered either "a lot" (48.3%) or "the max" (32.6%). Fewer than 20 percent answered either "a little" (11.1%) or "none" (8.0%).

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

June 09, 2015

"Let's goooooooo States!" U.S. wins Women's World Cup opener; plus LeBron wins again, naughty Miami, Marlins' No. 1 draft pick, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 9. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with keeping Dwyane Wade in Miami. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron James hate-watch poll, UM to Omaha, women's World Cup, D.Wade's PR genius, Dolphins next-best verdict & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Miami second-naughtiest city: C'mon, Miami, we can do better than No. 2, can't we? A survey by a dating site called OnMutualTerms.com polled 3,528 men and women on the best American cities for "casual encounters" and the top five were Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, New Orleans and Las Vegas. One question. Philadelphia!?

"U-S-A! U-S-A!" AMERICANS WIN WOMEN'S WORLD CUP OPENER: Update: U.S. looked very strong last evening in dispatching Australia 3-1 in its WWC opener in Canada, led by two goals from Megan Rapinoe (pictured). If Alex  Morgan attains full fitness during this run, I like Team USA's chances for its first World Cup triumph since 1999. Original post: I toss my journalistic neutrality theatrically out the window, like Dave 1aa1awwc 1aa1ameganrapLetterman used to toss watermelons off tall buildings, when it comes to stuff like the Olympics and World Cups. I root for the United States, openly, unabashedly and
with gusto. I become a homer. So I am excited the U.S. women's national soccer team debuting vs. Australia tonight in Winnipeg in the Women's World Cup being held in Canada. I'm excited for patriotic, dare say jingoistic reasons, and also because the women of Abby Wambach, Morgan and bad-girl Hope Solo represent the best America has to offer in female sports. Only Serena Williams, in tennis, is at that level where unrelenting excellence is expected. Much about women's sports doesn't seem to interest America much (women's golf and the WNBA come to mind), but top-level soccer does because it appeals to the frontrunner in us. These women are good. Men's soccer wants to be what the women are: Top-tier contenders on the world stage. This is the seventh WWC, and the U.S. never has finished worse than third place, including championships in 1991 and '99 and a heart-breaking runnerup finish four years ago. But Brandi Chastain & The Sports Bra were a long time ago now. We're due. (Yes, I said we). Most experts rate the U.S. and Germany. So I say it again: "Let's go-ooooooo States!"

MARLINS PICK A SURPRISE IN MLB DRAFT: It pales in national media attention and general interest compared to the NFL and even NBA 1aa1ajoshndrafts, but baseball's annual draft began last night, and the Marlins surprised most experts -- yes, there are baseball mock drafts -- by selecting Canadian prep first baseman Josh Naylor (pictured) in the first round, 12th overall. They list Naylor as 6-1 and 225 pounds. Hmm. This pic must have been taken after a particularly large meal as Naylor displays something of a Babe Ruth physique. As long as the Babe bat comes with it, we're OK. First South Florida player drafted was Miami Hurricanes lefty pitcher Andy Suarez in the second round, 61st overall, by the Nationals. UM and Jim Morris are both preparing for the start of the College World Series and also keeping an eye on the draft, especially where slugging third baseman David Thompson is selected today. He'll likely turn pro if drafted high enough to suit him, but otherwise may return for another season at UM. 

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday (then updated) feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NBA: Battered, not beaten, Cavs win Game 3 behind LeBron, again: Already  missing Kevin Love, Cleveland couldn't beat Golden State in Game 1 despite 44 points from LeBron James. Now they'd be missing Kyrie Irving the rest of the series, too. Facing a crucial Game 2 back out west, James said, accurately: "People are writing us off." (Added a grinning, high-fiving Miami: "I know we are!') Well, get me rewrite. LeBron scores 39, has a triple-double and Cleveland ties series, then scores 40 in Game 3 last night to put Cavs up 2-1 in Cleveland.

2. HORSE RACING: American Pharoah runs into history books: Since Affirmed in 1978, 13 horses had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness then failed to win the Belmont and finish the Triple Crown -- before American Pharoah finally ended that drought in triumph Saturday. (Quick aside: The word is actually spelled “pharaoh,” of course. Somebody buy that horse’s parents a dictionary!)

3. HURRICANES: Omaha! UM baseball back in College World Series: UM swept Virginia Commonwealth in the NCAA Super Regional here to qualify for the CWS for the first time since 2008, in search of Miami's fifth national title and first since '01. Only in college baseball do you hear anybody talk about being in Omaha, Nebraska as a life’s goal and highlight.

4. MARLINS: Fish show signs of life, take another series: Fish got spanbked last night in Toronto but before that in Colorado the Marlins won their third series in a row and fourth in the past five. Meanwhile Giancarlo Stanton is on a home-run tear (18) and Jose Fernandez is due back soon. I'd say things are looking up for replacement-manager Dan Jennings, but, with the Marlins, that’s usually a precursor to something exploding.

5. SOCCER: Europe final, Women’s World Cup come at right time: Lionel Messi's Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 Saturday in Europe’s Champions League final, same day the Women’s World Cup opened in Canada. (The U.S. began last night with a 3-1 win over Australia). Thank you, Europe and women, for helping remind us it's still the beautiful game despite the stink of corrupted FIFA and resigning-in-shame Sepp Blatter.

6. HOCKEY: Tampa Bay surges to lead in Stanley Cup Finals: While Panthers fans try to recall what the playoffs are, Tampa Bay beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 last night for a 2-1 series lead in the NHL finals. Meanwhile desperate Canada, which invented hockey but last celebrated a championship in 1993, has dispatched a covert team of special-ops Mounties to kidnap the Stanley Cup.

7. TENNIS: Williams wins French, but Djokovic upset loser: Heavily favored Serena Williams won the Franch Open women's title on Saturday, but No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Novak Djokovic was upset on Sunday by Stan Wawrinka for the men's title. Stan Wawrinka!? So much for me making fun of tennis' predictability by suggesting they saved time by engraving both trophies before tournament even started.

8. CAITLYN JENNER: Bruce's transformation sparks fascination: Former Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, a transgender, became Caitlyn Jenner, debuted herself on the cover of Vogue and set a record for becoming the quickest person ever to reach 1 million Twitter followers. And me, still stuck at 18,000 and change. Hmm. Something to think about...

9. DOLPHINS: For Fins, it was a bad week for feet: Haven't even reached preseason mini-camp yet, but last week top draft pick DeVante Parker underwent foot surgery (he should be ready for the season), and kicker Caleb Sturgis injured his foot while playing, of all things, kickball. A kicker being injured playing kickball is a little like the fire chief burning his hand on the stove.

10. HEAT: Wade attends graduation, gets TV gig: Never dull around Dwyane Wade. Last week he was invited and attended Western High's graduation ceremony, and then was part of ABC's Finals coverage on Sunday night. Meantime it remains up in air if Heat will pay Wade what he wants or see him test free agency. Maybe on TV Sunday Dwyane should have appeared disheveled in shockingly unfashionable, tattered clothes and held up a hand-drawn cardboard sign reading, 'Will Stay In Miami For Millions.'

Missing the cut: Tiger Woods shoots am 85, Monday's MLB draft, Al Golden's football camps, WNBA begins, A-Rod's cousin sentenced, Adeiny Hechavarria's shoe collection.

Poll result: Animus toward LeBron still percolating: No, Heat fans have not forgiven LeBron James the way he left Miami. We asked (you may still vote) and 63.3 percent are rooting against LeBron in the NBA Finals versus only 12.7% rooting for him. The other votes were split among 10.3% who are "sort of conflicted," 10.2% "not interested or watching" and 3.5% "pretending to not be interested."

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

June 02, 2015

Bruce Jenner introduces Caitlyn. What do you think? New poll. Vote now!; plus Sepp Blatter resigns, UM reaches NCAA Super-Regional, Marlins demote Cishek, Hot Button Top 10 (updated) with NBA, Wade, pucks, tennis, horses & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today on radio (3-7 The Ticket Miami and 4-7 ESPN Radio) and on TV (4-7 Fusion). 

Sepp Blatters resigns: FIFA's president resigned today, four days after being reelected, in the midst of a bribery/corruption scandal. "I am the president of everyone," he had said. Now he is the president of nobody. Assumption: Blatter knows the hammer is coming, that he likely is to be imminently indicted in the scandal.

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 2. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Wade/Heat impasse with poll, UM-FIU feud, Dolphins uniform rank, FIFA verdict & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1acaitlynBRUCE JENNER IS NOW CAITLYN: Former Olympic decathlon champion and Wheaties box cover-boy Bruce Jenner completed his transgender transition to her this week, unveiling Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vogue. This is a lot for many of us to wrap our heads around. There was Chastity Bono (Sonny & Cher's daughter) becoming a man named Chaz. But clearly, Jenner is the most prominent American athlete and celebrity to transgender, at least by my eye. His periphery to the Kardashian clan and all of that attendant tabloid fame makes the story only bigger still. The attention to this is such that Jenner, on Monday, became the fastest person ever to go from no Twitter to 1 million-plus followers, surpassing Barack Obama's record. I'm curious what our readers think of Bruce becoming Caitlyn. I think it takes courage -- balls, as it were -- to do this so publicly, at this age. I say good for her. Now it's your turn. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Canes 21, Columbia 3: Miami Hurricanes had lost at home to Columbia, 3-0, in the NCAA Regional, forcing a winner-take-all game between the teams last night. (Click on The Victim of Charming for my column from that game. I wrote that Columbia University, an Ivy League team, was a charming little story that threatened to crush mighty UM). Last night, though, order was restored, with Miami cruising into next week's super-regional, also here, a best 2-out-of-3 vs. Virginia Commonwealth.

"There are only five people still alive who were born in the 1800s. I wonder who the other four are?" --Greg Cote

HOT BUTTON (UPDATED): TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. FIFA: Scandalized soccer body re-elects Blatter: Federal corruption and bribery indictments rocked soccer's world governing body, yet unindicted president Sepp Blunder Blatter was re-elected the very same week despite being ultimately responsible for FIFA's messy shame. Imagine if Richard Nixon had won reelection at the height of Watergate? This was that.

2. MARLINS: Stanton blasts awaken struggling Fish: With Cubs in town for three, the Marlins are now 4-9 under new manager Dan Jennings and last night demoted struggling closer Steve Cishek to Double-A to work on his mechanics. But Miami had won two of three at the Mets -- one thanks to four home runs including a pair by Giancarlo Stanton. (Isn't it amazing how much better Jennings seems as a manager when his team hits four homers?)

3. NBA: It's a Golden State-Cleveland Finals, as expected: From the moment playoffs began it seemed inevitable LeBron James and league MVP Steph Curry would meet in the Finals. And they will. Eventually. Game 1 is Thursday night after a full week's delay since the conference finals. Don't worry, Miami. Before long it'll be time to boo and hate-watch LeBron again.

4. HEAT: Wade camp turns up contract heat on Heat: It was reported the Heat and Dwyane Wade are significantly apart on money, and that Wade may ponder leaving in free agency. In other words, Wade's people used the media to put a little public pressure on the team. Few believe Wade actually will leave, but it makes for a neat little diversion while waiting for the NBA Finals.   

5. COLLEGE BASEBALL: UM prevails in must-win, advances: The Miami Hurricanes were in the NCAA Regional championship game in their own ballpark last night and clobbered Columbia, 21-3. Miami is now two wins from advancing past the super-regional, also here, next weekend. Next time the Canes play a road game, it had better be in Omaha.

6. NHL: Stanley Cup Finals set after two Game 7 semis: Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning went the distance to play for Lord Stanley's chalice, beginning with Game 1 Wednesday night in Tampa. (Dear NBA: That's how to stage two exciting semis and get right to a Finals).

7. TENNIS: French Open passes its midpoint: It's now past midpoint of the red-clay major, and looking like No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic could unseat French champion Rafael Nadal on the men's side. In women's half, upset-loss by defending champ Maria Sharapova appears to clear path for top-seeded Serena Williams.

8. HORSE RACING: American Pharoah's moment nears: We are four days now from the 147th Belmont Stakes. More important, we are four days until American Pharoah tries to become first horse since 1978 to win a Triple Crown. This is the year it actually happens. No, seriously. I think. Maybe.

9. WOMEN'S WORLD CUP: U.S. among favorites: Women's soccer owns its quadrennial stage in the month-long World Cup starting this coming Saturday in Canada, with the United States and Germany generally considered co-favorites. FIFA may be shamed, but the game is still beautiful.

10. DOLPHINS: Fins continues offseason OTAs: Miami's second organized team activity (OTA) practice day was Monday. This is all very exciting, for those intensely interested in how their team practices more than three months from the start of the season. You know you're desperate for news when the big story is the kicker being injured and out for a few weeks.

Missing the cut: WNBA season opens. NBA Draft ahead. National Spelling Bee ends in a tie between Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar, who successfully spelled each other's name.

Poll result: Mixed feelings on Heat/Wade contract matter: We asked and 51.4 percent said Dwyane Wade at this point in his career should be satisfied with less money but another 41.8% said Heat should pay him the max for all he's done. The other 6.8% were undecided or unsure.

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

May 26, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Fish, Fins, Finals, Canes baseball, Montoya, Letterman, hockey, soccer, tennis, Heat; plus 50,000 Names: Thank you, American heroes; also, UM/MLS stadium verdict & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

It's Radio Tuesday: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami and 4-7 on ESPN Radio and Fusion TV. Ears, and eyes, welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 26. Click on Random for our latest Sunday Random Evidence notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UM/MLS stadium discussions with poll, King of Late Night and Kidgate poll results, proctology news & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON MAY 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (a day late this week but updated) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Stinking Fish make bizarre manager change, finally win: The slumping Marlins surprised baseball by prematurely firing manager Mike Redmond and then stunned baseball by replacing him with Dan Jennings, who was the general manager and began 0-5 in his new role before finally winning. Jennings last managed at the high school level in 1980s. No, seriously.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins lock up QB Tannehill with long-term deal: The Dolphins will pay quarterback Ryan Tannehill $96 million over the next six seasons in the hopes he makes them a perennial playoff team and even a Super Bowl contender. I think Dolfans are generally happy about the deal, but probably not nearly as happy as Tannehill’s wife, Lauren.

3. NBA: Golden State, Cleveland barreling toward Finals: All of America outside of Atlanta, Houston and Miami is rooting for the Golden State-Cleveland NBA Finals that now seems certain -- Steph Curry vs. LeBron James. Take solace, Heat fans. Even if that happens, it would be first time in five or six years that LeBron would enter a playoff series expected to lose.

4. UM BASEBALL: Canes to host NCAA regional: Miami failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament but stil was named a No. 5 national seed and will host an NCAA Regional at Ron Fraser Stadium. (Hey. It's my blog. I can call it whatever I want).

5. AUTO RACING: Miamian Montoya wins Indy 500: The 99th running of “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” is the one day IndyCars steal the spotlight from NASCAR, and Miami's Juan Pablo Montoya won Sunday. I was betting on Will Power. Not because I thought he'd win, but because I have a soft spot for guys with ridiculous names that sound like alter-ego pseudonyms of comic-book superheroes.

6. DAVID LETTERMAN: Late-night TV legend says farewell: Letterman didn’t supplant Johnny Carson as the all-time late-night king, never got to host “The Tonight Show” and didn’t often beat Jay Leno in ratings, yet wound up a legend. Proves you can be beloved even if you don’t win the ultimate prize. Just ask Dan Marino. Ouch! Too soon?

7. NHL: High drama in hockey semifinals: Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers are tied 2-2 in the Eastwern Conference and Anaheim and Chicago are knotted 2-2 in the West. Dear NBA: This is how you do drama.

8. SOCCER: Joint stadium for UM football and MLS soccer?: David Beckham wanted a Miami waterfront home for Major League Soccer but couldn’t get one. Miami Hurricanes need a campus football stadium but couldn’t get one. Now the sides are discussing sharing a new venue near Marlins Park. What will it be called? Consolation Stadium?

9. TENNIS: French Open is underway: Betting favorites in Paris are Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Sort of like in every other tournament anywhere else.

10. HEAT: Tough week for Heat fans: Watching LeBron James roll to another Finals. Pretending to be thrilled over keeping the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. Then seeing no Miami player make the All-NBA first, second or third team for the first time since 2008. Good news? Season's almost over.

Poll result: Cautious excitement over proposed UM/MLS stadium: We asked and 34.5 percent called it a great idea and 28.6% were intrigued enough to hear more. On the negative side, 15.1% were skeptical and 21.8% said "no!"

MEMORIAL DAY, 2015: THANK YOU, FALLEN SOLDIERS: On Memorial Day every year (that's today), America honors its war dead. As a proud, patriotic citizen I am honored to mark the occasion in my blog today. The Revolutionary War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and right through to today's fight against Islamic State, among many other battles distant and not, America's bravest fight and the casualties continue. Across decades and centuries, across the world, the price of freedom never lets up and never will. I hate that we use the word "heroes" so frivolously, especially to apply to something as inconsequential as sports. This is the day for real heroes. The video below is a song called "50,000 Names," by George Jones. It is about Vietnam and The Wall in Washington, D.C., but it speaks to all of America's war dead, and with appreciation to all of the loved ones they left behind. This is for them. Thank you, today and always!

 

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April 12, 2015

All but done. Heat playoff chances now 1.7%; plus the new Hot Button Top 10 with Heat, zombie Marlins, Masters, Fins, Cuba, Cats, Canes, FIU & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 13. Random Evidence, the Sunday notes column, took the day off but will return next week. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's plunging playoff fortunes, LeBron sabotaging Heat poll, Branden Albert boxing, NBA/Cuba verdict, Marlins off schneid, Kardashian-Free Zone & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Historical SadFact: With the Heat facing elimination today from contention for the NBA playoffs, this would be only the fifth time in 21 shared seasons that both Heat and NHL Panthers sat out the postseason. Previous occurrences were in 2008, 2003, 2002 and 1995.

PLAYOFF CHASE: MIAMI (ALL BUT) ELIMINATED: The latest home 1aa1adwadeloss, 107-104 to Toronto, was Miami's ninth in the past 12 games and pushed Heat to very edge of elimination from NBA playoff race. Dwyane Wade (pictured), who scored 30, displays an expression fitting the frustration of how Miami has blown it the past few weeks. Heat must now win its final two games and hope Brooklyn and Indiana both end 0-2, after Boston beat the LeBron-less Cavs yesterday to (all but) eliminate the Heat. Four teams were jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. Playoff-likelihood percents are updated to reflect yesterday's developments. How it looks entering Monday's NBA action:

7. Boston: 38-42, W4. Playoff likelihood: 98.3% (up 10.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Tuesday vs. TOR, Wednesday @ MIL. Note: All but clinched.

8. Brooklyn: 37-43, L1. Playoff likelihood: 76.4% (down 12.5). Next: Tonight vs. CHI, Wednesday vs. ORL. Note: Last two games being at home helps cause.

9. Indiana: 37-43, W5. Playoff likelihood: 23.6 (up 2.8). Next: Tonight vs. WAS, Wednesday @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat.

10. Miami: 35-45, L2. Playoff likelihood: 1.7% (down 1.1). Next: Tonight vs. ORL, Wednesday @ PHI. Note: Heat makes playoffs only if it finishes 2-0 and Brooklyn and Indiana both finish 0-2.

HOT BUTTON APR. 12: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Miami playoff hopes now all but over: To make the playoffs now, Miami must finish 2-0 (starting tonight vs. Orlando in home finale) and hope Brooklyn and Indiana both end 0-2. That could happen. Yes, and I could hit the Lotto on the way to my blind date with Olivia Munn.

2. MARLINS: Fish staggering at 1-5 start: Team finally won Friday on a "Zombie Night" promotion as many fans arrived dressed as the living dead -- emulating their team's bats during the punchless five losses including yesterday's. More ominous yet: Henderson Alvarez may be out as Fish begin 10-game road trip.

3. GOLF: The Masters under Spieth's spell: Jordan Spieth, 21, became the second-youngest Masters winner (after Tiger Woods in 1997) in dominating Augusta. Tiger was a big story for playing credibly, which tells you how far his career has sunk.

4. DOLPHINS: Pouncey signs long-term deal: No rest. Team signs center Mike Pouncey long-term, auditions but doesn't sign WRs Wes Welker, Greg Jennings and Michael Crabtree, and prepares (17 days and counting) for the NFL Draft.

5. NBA: League to hold camp in Cuba: League blindsided and angered Heat by unilaterally announcing an April 23-26 developmental camp in Cuba. A heads-up might have been logical and nice for the one franchise affected by any relationship with the island.

6. PANTHERS: Hockey season quietly expires: Much improvement and lots to like under first-year coach Gerard Gallant, team MVP Roberto Luongo and late-arrival JaromirJagr in season that ended with Saturday win over Jersey. Bottom line, though: For 17th time in 21 franchise seasons, no playoffs.

7. HURRICANES: 10 more inducted in UM sports hall: I don't wanna say its inducts too many people each year, but if it were a country, the UM Sports Hall of Fame would be the 43rd most populous nation on Earth.

8. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Duke men, UConn women reign: Now if we can just get the two champions to play each other for the ultimate crown. Sure, it'd be ridiculous. But you'd watch, wouldn't you?

9. TENNIS: Novak, Serena win Miami Open: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams won titles on Key Biscayne last weekend. Or, given tennis' predictability ... did that go without saying?

10. FIU BASKETBALL: FIU hires new hoops coach: FIU introduced former Maryland assistant Marlin Chinn as head coach of its women's team. Which makes him the newest Miami Marlin, right?

Poll result: Most don't think LeBron is intentionally hurting Heat: We asked if you thought LeBron James resting or sitting out two straight games vs. Celtics might be to intentionally hurt Miami's playoff chances, and it was 51.4 percent no, 38.1% yes and 10.5% maybe/undecided.

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April 05, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Flying Fish, Kentucky's loss, reeling Heat, 7 others; plus who'll win NCAA final? New poll. Vote now!; also Loria, Serena & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.


1aa1aeaster1) It is SUNDAY, APRIL 5. Happy Easter, believers, and congratulations, Jesus! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Marlins. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four, UM/NIT, Jordan tops poll, Heat/Panthers playoff chase, Josh Freeman, Cuban baseball, John Wolin & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins' Jeffrey Loria: I visit with the team owner for my column in today's season-preview section. Many don't like Loria, but will a big-spending offseason help his image? Click on Judging Jeffrey to read.

Serena's dominance: Serena Williams is The Tennis Terminator. She proved it again yesterday at the Miami Open. Click on Queen Serena for my column on Williams and her place in tennis history.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Double doom! Heat drop off pace, Panthers eliminated. Update entering SundayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 9th place at 34-42 (L3) after last night's 99-98 loss at Detroit, 1/2 game from 8th, 1 game ahead of 10th with 6 games left (next tonight at Indiana). Heat playoff likelihood: 60.5% (down 9.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down (eliminated) in 10th place at 36-43 (L1) after last night's 4-0 loss vs. Tampa Bay, 8 points from 8th with 4 games left (next today vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.0% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

HOT BUTTON APR. 5: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Opening Day! High hopes as Fish debut Monday: Major League Baseball opens its season with Cardinals at Cubs tonight, but all other teams take the field Monday. Here is your pump-up music, South Florida: Only the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants have won more World Series since 1997 than the Marlins’ two.

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: It's Duke-Wisconsin for NCAA championship: Kentucky and Duke were five-point betting picks in Saturday’s Final Four semifinals but only one of them did their job. For the previously unbeaten Wildcats of John Calipari, that meant yesterday was one and done.

3. HEAT: Loss at Detroit knocks Miami off playoff pace: The blown-lead 99-98 loss at Detroit last night toppled Heat into ninth place in East with six games to play resuming tonight at Indiana. Miami has now lost three straight and six of past eight in a season that has proved to be exciting like hanging on to the edge of a cliff is exciting.

4. TENNIS: Serena wins, men on deck at Miami Open: Two weeks of tennis nirvana in Key Biscayne end with today's Novak Djokovic-Andy Murray men's final, after Serena Williams won Saturday's women's crown with such ease that we won't even mention her poor opponent's name.

5. PANTHERS: Cats eliminated from NHL playoff contention: Last night's 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay officially eliminated Florida from race. Panthers may have been most improved team in league this season. Unfortunately, Lord Stanley doesn't believe that close counts.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes lose heartbreaker in NIT title game: The bad news? UM, with two starters out injured, lost to Stanford 66-64 in overtime in the final of the NIT. The good news? We avoid having to cringe with a condescending smile while listening to coach Jim Larrañaga claim straight-faced that his team just won a national championship.

7. GOLF: Masters on deck with Tiger in it: Rory McIlroy is the betting favorite at The Masters this week at Augusta, but as much attention was being paid to Tiger Woods on whether he would play. He will. But it speaks to the shaky state of his game -- battling health issues, and after a long layoff -- that even his fans sort of wished he hadn't.

8. NFL DRAFT: UM Pro Day showcases Canes: NFL scouts raved about the Hurricanes’ talent at UM’s annual Pro Day, notably Phillip Dorsett, who ran a 4.25 40. I don’t wanna says he’s fast, but when Dorsett flips off the light switch in his bedroom he’s under the covers before the room goes dark. Seems the Canes will have a sizable impact on the NFL Draft’s early rounds. That sound you hear is one more excuse for a 6-7 season running away from Al Golden. 

9. DOLPHINS: Fins sign quarterback Josh Freeman: That was after the team gained a court order to exhume the remains of Freeman's career and conduct an autopsy for signs of life.

10. HORSES: Show-jumping competition ends on Miami Beach: A major show-jumping competition concluded Saturday on the sands of Miami Beach. I don’t wanna say those horses are pampered, but an "equine psychotherapist" was on hand. Seriously. Am picturing a typical session. Sad horse sighs as it lays on couch. Psychotherapist: “Why the long face?”

Poll result: You want different, better NCAA Tournament format: This surprised me a bit. I'd have guessed you'd go for the status quo. Instead, 70.3 percent said they'd prefer a tournament with the 64 best teams and no automatic bids for small-conference winners. Only 29.7% preferred it as is.

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April 02, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 names; you pick top 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (w/ video), Marlins, Fins cheerleaders & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

It's Radio Thursday!: My usual Tuesday gig was delayed to Thursday this week so I'll be in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 2. Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four polls, Heat/Panthers playoff update, ageless wonders Wade and Jagr, Dolphins draft, Larranaga at NIT, Bieber roast & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By Pointless, Premature Guesswork On What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat holding on, Cats needing miracle. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-40 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th and 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 74.5% (down 2.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-42 (L1), 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next tonight vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

TOP 20 ATHLETES OF PAST 20 YEARS: PUTTING ESPN'S LIST IN RIGHT ORDER: ESPN.com marks its 1aa1atop20 1aa1atop20grath20th anniversary this week not only with a needless website redesign but also by ranking the Top 20 athletes of 1995-2015. All sports, and not just American athletes. You can read the story and see the list here. But I am interested in how your order might differ from ESPN's. In this poll -- the longest one we've ever had in this blog -- I list all 20 athletes, but alphabetically, not in ESPN's order, so as not to prejudice the jury. Please step back to take an historic view. Consider how the athlete dominated his or her sport and stands in its all-time estimation. Vote for your top five (5) and check back often for evolving results as we put a Miami spin on ESPN's order.

Deciphering the vote: In this poll, 20 percent would be a perfect-score vote if everyone voted for the maximum five athletes. Any total over 20% would indicate some are voting for only that person. Multiply an athlete's vote total by five for fair estimation of percentage of ballots that are including that athlete.

CANES-STANFORD FOR N.I.T. TITLE! BUT...: Jim Larranaga's Miami men face Stanford tonight 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple in the semis. It's nice the Canes reached the final, win or lose. They have made the most of being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. But let's tap the brakes on what this means. Larranaga said a couple of days ago: "I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship." Hmm. Well... Really? The problem with the NIT is it's so clearly the "other" postseason tournament, the one you are relegated to if you don't get invited to the one you want. It would be great if UM won. An accomplishment, yes. But one worthy of "national champion" talk and a parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. This week's blown-lead 3-2 loss at Boston was a season killer for the Florida Panthers (see Playoff Chase above). The Cats are now six points off pace for the final playoff spot with five games left, their chances now negligible. Florida probably must finish on a 5-0 run (all at home, starting tonight) and then hope Boston and Ottawa both crash to even have a small chance. Otherwise this would make it the 17th non-playoff year in 21 franchise seasons. Hasn't been a terrible season by any means. Just not good enough.

Poll result: Kentucky, Duke the Final Four picks: We asked for your Final Four predictions, and you went Kentucky by 67.3 percent over Wisconsin and Duke by 67.5% over Michigan State. Thought both favorites, especially UK, might draw a larger margin.

EX-DOLPHIN RICKY WILLIAMS EMBARKS ON SINGING CAREER: Ever on a mystical journey of self-enlightment, Ricky Williams' latest life detour has led him to a recording studio. Williams, 37, is now barely recognizable after gaining about 85 pounds (see below) since his playing career after being diagnosed with acute munchieitis. And he again is wearing his hair in dreadlocks as he embarks on a musical career. Williams formed a duo he calls P.M. Dawn, explaining that the name stands for Post Miami, "and represents the dawn of a new morning on the beachhead of my life." The duo was signed to Gee Street, a boutique subsidiary of Def Jam Records, and has been recording at Noegnud Studios in northern California. "I don't sing the songs. The songs sing me," said Williams in a recent interview in Vibe. The sound is trippy, R&Bish with a hip-hop flavor. "Williams' sultry, breathy vocals score a touchdown!" raves Billboard in a new review. Williams' first single is called "Looking Through Patient Eyes." The video for it below begins with an introspective Williams seen walking on a beach, his eyes enigmatically covered by a dark lace veil:

 

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MARLINS: The good news? In an ESPN The Magazine survey of MLB 1aa1abb25players, the Marlins finished first with 25 percent to the question, "Which team will be the 2014 Royals?" -- meaning the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs. The bad news? The Washington Nationals, Miami's NL East roadblock, finished first with 30 percent to the question, "Who will win the World Series?" Update: Marlins are unchanged at 33-1 to win World Series (tied for 16th) in latest Bovada odds. However, the over/under on Miami wins has inched up from 81.5 to 82.5.

1aa1adolcheer2
1aa1adolcheer
URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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March 29, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Kentucky, Heat, Materiality, Canes, Cats, tennis, Fish, Fins, cricket & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 29. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Random Evidence notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday, Heat in good hands, NCAAs, Miami Open, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine (with new stuff from yesterday's Florida Derby).

Florida Derby: A close, controversial finish, a record betting handle -- the 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park had it all. But did it have a special winner in Materiality? A horse that can challenge the Triple Crown drought? Click on Materiality's Burden for my column from the track. 

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat steady, Cats lose. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-39 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th with 10 games left (next tonight vs. Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 69.2% (down 3.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 34-41 (L1) after last night's 4-3 OT loss at Montreal, 3 points from 9th and 4 points from 8th with 7 games left (next tonight at Ottawa). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.6% (down 0.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 29: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Kentucky escapes as Elite Eight moves toward Final Four: No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seed Kentucky survived Notre Dame last night (barely) and Wisconsin also advanced to Final Four. Now Louisville-Michigan State and Duke-Gonzaga take stage tonight. Irish didn't prove Kentucky can be beaten because close doesn't count. Quoting John Calipari, "We're unbeaten, not perfect."

2. HEAT: Team returns home as playoffs draw near: Miami, hosting Detroit this evening, seems a likely No. 7 playoff with 10 games left, which would mean facing LeBron James in first round. Meantime an ESPN panel ranked Heat second in NBA ownership, third in front office and sixth in coaching. San Antonio swept all three categories. Evidently that ESPN panel consisted entirely of Spurs fans.

3. HORSE RACING: Materiality wins Florida Derby: Huge crowd and a record betting handle festooned Saturday's 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream, won by Materiality. This is when we begin to wonder if Materiality, starting May 2 in Kentucky Derby, can end the Triple Crown drought (and think sadly to ourselves, "Nah.") 

4. HURRICANES BASKETBALL: UM in NIT semifinals Tuesday: Miami faces Temple Tuesday night in an NIT semifinal, so at least Canes are making most out of missing the NCAAs. Game is at Madison Square Garden, which of course is nicknamed, "The World's Most Famous Arena Despite the Knicks."

5. PANTHERS: Next two games to define playoff hopes: Panthers, minus injured top scorer Nick Bjugstad, play tonight at Ottawa and Tuesday here vs. Boston -- the two teams Cats are chasing for final NHL playoff spot. Win both, and Cats have a shot. Lose either, and probably not. Playoff pressure doesn't always wait for the playoffs.

6. TENNIS: Miami Open at midpoint: Tennis’ "fifth major' runs through next weekend. The unexpected early ouster of No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova has been tournament’s biggest headline so far. Sharapova normally loses in the semifinals or final to career nemesis Serena Williams but apparently wanted to beat the rush this year and fast-track her inevitable elimination.

7. MARLINS: Cosart investigated for gambling: As Marlins wind down spring training with the season eight days away, pitcher Jarred Cosart is being investigated by MLB for gambling. Here's another gamble: Miami, despite high hopes, making the playoffs. 

8. UM FOOTBALL: Defense dominates Spring Game: Defense had four interceptions to lead UM's annual Spring Game but anybody saying "uh oh" about Brad Kaaya as result is a lunatic. Little in all of sports is a more pointless waste of money than college football teams practicing in March. Seriously.  

9. DOLPHINS: Free-agency season segues to pre-draft talk: Coach Joe Philbin this week said he hopes the team's transition to a new receiving corps "won't be too painful." Man that guy really knows how to rally the troops doesn't he!?:

10. CRICKET: Aussies win Cricket World Cup: One word. Crikey!

MADNESS: KENTUCKY SURVIVES; SIX GOES TO FOUR TONIGHT: No, I don't regret the previous headline, "Can we please stop pretending anybody can beat Kentucky?" Notre Dame almost did, last night, but when last I checked (sorry, Irish) almost didn't count. Both higher seeds (Wisconsin, too) won last night in the Elite Eight, so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is now at 19.0 percent, with 11 upsets (based on seeds) in 58 games thus far. Tonight as we reach the Final Four, 1-Duke is a narrow favorite over 2-Gonzaga, but 7-Michigan State is a slight betting pick over 4-Louisville for the seed upset.

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March 28, 2015

It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida!; plus Heat in good hands, unbeatable Kentucky, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Miami Open, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes in NIT semis with poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Jarred Cosart, Marlins odds, Dolphins draft, MLS/Miami, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Turning awful into good: That racist fraternity video at the University of Oklahoma was awful, but the positive response of the Sooners football team reminds us of sports' power to involve itself in issues that matter. Click on Bigger Than Games for my latest column.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat fall, Cats still alive. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-39 (L1) after last night's 99-86 loss at Atlanta, 3 games from 6th with 10 games left (next Sunday vs. Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 73.0% (down 4.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 34-40 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 3 points from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

1aa1asupersatWELCOME TO SUPER SATURDAY: It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida. We have the 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream (I'll be there columnizing). UM's football Spring Game is up at Lockhart Stadium. The Miami Open continues down on Key Biscayne, including Serena Williams' match delayed from Friday. The spring Marlins host Astros up in Jupiter. Panthers try to keep NHL playoff hope alive at Montreal. Oh, and the NCAA Tournament begins its Elite Eight with 1's Kentucky and Wisconsin both in play. That enough for you?

1aa1aheatbig3NBA EXPERTS VERIFY HEAT IN (VERY) GOOD HANDS: The Heat may have a losing record post-LeBron and looking like a playoff seventh-seed, but regard for the people running the franchise remains high.
An ESPN experts panel this week lists NBA owners, front office executives and head coaches, first to last, plus an overall ranking, and Miami shines. Heat is ranked second in ownership (Micky Arison), third in front office (Pat Riley), sixth in coach (Erik Spoelstra) and No. 3 overall, trailing only San Antonio and Golden State. (The Spurs swept all four categories). Riley, Arison and Spoelstra are pictured left to right, immortalized on canvas -- the Heat's real Big 3. 

CAN WE PLEASE STOP PRETENDING ANYBODY CAN BEAT KENTUCKY?: I cannot remember seeing a more lopsided game this deep into an NCAA Tournament than the 78-39 Kentucky rout of West 1aa1asweet16Virginia in the Sweet 16. The Mountaineers were awful, can't shoot straight, but it was KY's defense and size that preened. You hear analysts still speculating about who can beat Kentucky and how, but it's just an injection of false drama against the growing inevitability of John Calipari's Wildcats finishing as the sport's first unbeaten national champs since 1976. By the way all seven of eight higher-seeded teams won in the Sweet 16 round (all but Oklahoma), so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is now at 19.6 percent, with 11 upsets (based on seeds) in 56 games thus far. (By the way, CBS and Turner report that TV ratings have been the highest for a Sweet 16 since 1991, and up 30 percent over last year. So Kentucky as flagship seems to be helping, not hurting). 

Poll result: UM in NIT semifinal is big deal, sort of: We asked if the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team reaching the NIT semifinals (Canes face Temple on Tuesday) is a big, medium or minor deal. You voted big 42.7 percent, medium 40.2% and minor 17.1%.

MIAMI OPEN: SHARAPOVA FAST-TRACKS INEVITABLE ELIMINATION: No. 2-seed Maria Sharapova (pictured) losing to little-known Daria Gavrilova in the Battle of the Russian 'Ovas' became the 1aa1amariasfirst notable big news of the Miami Open on Key Biscayne. Typically Sharapova reaches the women's semifinals or even the finals before getting steamrolled by her career nemesis, Serena Williams. This year, it was as if she chose to concede early to that inevitable fate. Sharapova's unexpected early ouster and the fact Roger Federer isn't playing on the men's side robs the Miami Open of some luster.

CATS ALIVE! PANTHERS WITHIN THREE POINTS OF NHL PLAYOFF RANGE: Don't kick the Cats to the 1aa1abrandonpirricurb yet. Florida's 4-1 win at Toronto on Thursday led by two goals from Brandon Pirri (pictured) moved the Panthers within three points of Ottawa and fading Boston for the final Eastern playoff spot. Odds are still long but made better by the fact three of the team's eight remaining games are against the two teams they're chasing: Sunday at Ottawa, Tuesday at Boston, then April 9 against the Bruins here. May take a sweep of those three to get it done.

THE MIAMI-IZATION OF ESPN RADIO: Mr. Miami Dan LeBatard captains ESPN Radio's 4-7 p.m. national ship, and now the nighttime airwaves are going Miami, too. Starting this coming Monday, March 30, the reconfigured new 1aa1aespnradio
1aa1abomaninational lineup will feature "The Sedano Show" from 7-9 p.m., with Miami-raised Jorge Sedano, and then "The Right Time With Bomani Jones" (pictured) from 9-11, featuring the South Beach-living LeBatard protege who had been Dan's co-host on Wednesdays. (The LeBatard Show will audition several people to possibly replace Jones on Wednesdays). ESPN described Bomani's new show as "evocative." I think they probably meant "provocative," but let's not nitpick. David Roberts, ESPN Audio Network VP, rightly notes the lineup's diversity. LeBatard and Sedano are Hispanic; Jones and Freddie Coleman (on after Bomani) are black.

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